CASPER – Four mule deer, harvested from areas where chronic wasting disease had previously not been found, recently tested positive for the disease.
Three of the mule deer were harvested in the extreme southeast corner of Hunt Area 34 just northwest of Casper.
“Finding CWD in Hunt Area 34 was not overly alarming, because it has been documented in deer herds on both sides of this hunt area,” says Scott Talbott, Game and Fish Department wildlife supervisor in Casper. “But, it is discouraging. Little is known about how the disease is spread, and finding it in new areas increases the management challenges we face.”
The fourth deer was harvested in Deer Hunt Area 75 northwest of Laramie.
“Because of a positive deer found in Hunt Area 78, on the western slope of the Snowy Range earlier this fall, finding one in Hunt Area 75 on the eastern slope, and closer to the endemic area was not unexpected,” says Jeff Smith, Laramie Region wildlife supervisor.
Hunter participation is key to the department’s efforts to monitor the prevalence and distribution of CWD. Department records indicate almost 2,300 samples were collected this hunting season thanks to hunters.
Current records show that tests on 1,427 of the samples have been completed. So far, 47 animals tested positive, but six of the 47 came from areas where CWD has not previously been found.
“Chronic wasting disease appears to be spreading slowly. It is a concern, that if we do not find a way to contain this disease, it may eventually spread statewide,” says Dr. Walt Cook, G&F wildlife veterinarian.
“The Game and Fish owes a debt of gratitude to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory for conducting the tests,” Cook said. “While G&F collects most of the samples, the state vet lab actually does the testing. Without their assistance, our surveillance would be impossible”.
The World Health Organization says there is currently no evidence that CWD in deer and elk is transmitted to humans, but they further state no part or product of any animal with evidence of CWD or other transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, the name for that group of diseases, should be fed to any species – human, domestic or captive animal.
The G&F plans to keep the public informed of any other cases of CWD found outside the current endemic area, as tests are completed.